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Four young men struggle to liberate themselves from the burden of being black and male in America in an assured debut "as up-to the-minute as a Kendrick Lamar track and as ruefully steeped in eternal truths as a Gogol tale" (Kirkus).
Bound together by shared experience but pulled apart by their changing fortunes, four young friends coming of age in the postindustrial enclave of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, struggle to liberate themselves from the legacies left to them as black men in America. With potent immediacy and bracing candor, this provocative debut follows a decade in the lives of Dub, Rolls, Rye, and Gio as they each grapple with the complexity of their family histories, the newfound power of sex and drugs, and the ferocity of their desires.
Gio proves himself an unforgettable narrator, beautifully flawed and unstintingly honest, as he recounts both the friends' conflicts and their triumphs. Whether it's a fraught family cookout, a charged altercation on the block, a raucous night in high-society Manhattan gone wrong, or the troubled efforts of a drug hustler to go clean, JM Holmes brings the thump and the heat of his scenes to life with the kind of ease that makes us not just eavesdroppers but participants.
How Are You Going to Save Yourself illuminates in breathtaking detail an entire world-one that has been underrepresented in American fiction. At times funny, often uncomfortable, occasionally disturbing, these stories fearlessly engage with issues of race, sex, drugs, class, and family. Holmes's blistering and timely new voice, richly infused with the unmistakable rhythms of hip-hop that form the sound track to his characters' lives, delivers an indelible fiction that has never been more vital and necessary.
What the critics say
"Holmes's writing is fresh, and his dialogue rings true. He doesn't shy away from difficult subject matter or from showing his characters' flaws, which makes for some incredibly tough scenes to read, but also highlights the everyday travails of black men in America. Readers looking for timely, nuanced fiction about race and masculinity should definitely pick this up." (Booklist)
"Holmes's searing study of masculinity is offset by irresistible heart and biting humor." (Entertainment Weekly)
"JM Holmes is not just a new voice but a new force: honest, urgent, compelling, often hilarious, and more often gut-wrenching. In How Are You Going to Save Yourself, he writes with remarkable compassion and intelligence about characters whose own compassion and intelligence sometimes betray them. Comparisons to Junot Díaz and Denis Johnson are perhaps inevitable, but I imagine they'll prove short-lived; in a few years we'll be comparing writers to JM Holmes." (Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers)
"A crackling debut...Holmes proves his ability to navigate vulnerability, as well as his fearlessness in tackling tense situations head-on, all of which combines for a collection of superb stories." (Publishers Weekly)
"In these linked stories, both harrowing and funny, Holmes clarifies what it's like to be young, black, and male in America...Holmes, who won a fellowship to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is getting a big push." (Library Journal)
What listeners say about How Are You Going to Save YourselfAverage Customer Ratings
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- Kindle Customer
This was a waste of our book club time. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
- Amazon Customer
Complicit cowardly male
A complicit cowardly protagonist with rapist, bullying, misogynistic, robbing friends, who tries to romanticize and rationalize their bad behaviour by blaming the world and its pressures. The insight into the workings of the male mind here made clear they would rather be an actual weak minded, weak willed loser than being called or perceived as one. Ask not how you will save yourself, but should you.